tv Key Capitol Hill Hearings CSPAN October 28, 2014 12:30am-2:31am EDT
dramatic. it's funny that a lot of people don't talk about it. in my political circle george bush tends to get the same kind of negative publicity that barack obama gets from the tea party and the right wing. but the bush efforts on health were truly transformational. those had an impact on economic development and allowing people to move up the income chain. and so i think the same way with what president obama has been doing have been really helpful in latin america as well. and i do think that the foundations and the ngos are often at the cutting edge of what needs to be done. i just have to tell you that what the gates foundation is doing around the world and experimenting. they can experiment and fail and
the government, if it fails, congress doesn't like that very well. they will sometimes use failure as an example of why are you even doing this in the first place. so that's why it is important that these related ngos still have the resources to inspire the government. but repeating what you said, only the government can scale these projects back. >> hello, my name is ben hirschman. thank you for speaking to us and thank you for the objectivity and nonpartisanship. a lot of us are appreciative of that as it's difficult for a former public official to be objective. you touched on energy security and how there's aspects there. i wanted to ask could speak a little more about who security and energy security is, particularly with how they are grown. >> i think my friend could be
able to comment better than me. in africa we have this initiative that the goal is to provide enough electricity so that farmers can be relatively independent in terms of their own living standards and production standards. in the area of food waste, to really deal with a lot of those issues will we have to have electricity that comes to this. and this is the ability of government to function in a non-corrupt atmosphere, it can lead to some successes in this area. my big point overall was the fact that the united states for the first time is becoming energy self-sufficient. and i think that that is going
to change her attitude over the next decade or so politically whether it's the middle east or china and we operate in an insecure world in terms of the practicality and that is going to rely and change on the future. the final thing is technology. my prediction is that with the rapid movement of technology we are going to be able to produce devices in this world for small-scale use that will allow them to do things that use far less energy, maybe relying on solar energy, and the things that we never dreamed of before. we have to encourage the entrepreneurial spirit to develop a small-scale technology >> the only thing that i would add is respect to food crops for which to produce biofuels like
ethanol, i'm a technology optimist and believe that if we invest enough in productivity, we can be the world without destroying the environment, but we are not investing enough to congress that. my current estimate is that we need to grow production two thirds between now and the middle of the century. and there's 2% more land and are probably going to have to do with less water because of these will be omitting this for available water. with that, as i say, i'm a technology optimists. i think we can invest enough in research and raise productivity fast enough to do both, at the moment we are not. so i sense that there is some kind of competition between food and fuel at the moment. the question in the middle and then we will go to the back. >> thank you, mr. secretary.
i think that you really touched upon the driving issues surrounding agriculture and food security. and i look back in terms of the idea of crossing partisan lines and creating a coalition that works together across party lines. they're usually needs to be a driving issue that leads the way and i ain't that this law in the 50s sort of was that leading edge that started the working together of urban and rural interests. when i look at the eight or nine issues that you addressed, i don't see any of them as being the leading issue which gives the opportunity for both sides of the aisle to cross lines in this environment. give me some hope that there is one that we might focus on. >> well, i think that worldwide hunger -- hunger and poverty are
extremely important issues. and i do think that there is a bipartisan support for alleviating world hunger and from a humanitarian perspective when there is a drought or famine or something terrible, he flutters nominee, clearly you have bipartisan support. but the question is how do you drill deeper to do the development types things that bring people together. the religious community, both liberal and conservative elites that, the corporate world, the business world is now very engaged in the developing world and will become more so in the years to come. and, you know, it's difficult in our country with the divisions that exist on so many issues and people not coming together. the sales jobs have not been very well.
you tell people, okay, how much do you think that we have spent on foreign assistance to map the average person will say 20%. 50%, 10%, it's less than 1%. by the way, that includes military assistance, foreign military assistance if not economic assistance. you know, agriculture has always been good at recognizing because we had been growing more than we can consume and we are always involved in this ales and humanitarian items the picture and it's an example of that. i think that that is going to continue for a long time to come. now you see when this drop in commodity prices occurs, i think it's going to happen again. quite honestly this is my area of government. the president of the united states is the only one that represents everybody. the president has to be a leader on these issues. and i think president obama has
done a good job on developing this. i think his administrator has been transformational and amazing guy. and in the same way that president bush let this health issue in africa, he was kind of able to trump some of the more conservative forces in the country. but it's in our american interests do this. let's look at the ebola crisis for a moment. this is an issue i suspect that we will get through. i think that everybody kind of ignored it and the minute the guy in dallas -- in new york you see what is happening with the quarantine issues and everything else, it has become a very big issue. and we just have to continue a better job of explaining that america is part of the world, global the global issues are critical, what happens in food security will impact is very directly. it's a constant battle. you have to hand right here on the back row.
>> hello, i'm a former negotiator and i work for bob thompson. working with the global agreement of agriculture. >> what year was that? >> in the 80s. >> i didn't think he was quite battle of. [laughter] >> we haven't had a successful global agreement. and you have talked about the shortage of food and domestic politics and agriculture all around the world and it is positive on that, and that is the way that it works. the u.s. congress changed the farm program where it may be difficult to abide by commitment in the future of low prices. the question is how can the united states, if you were to
violate the commandments and the result of its own domestic program, how can it expect the rest of the world to abide by this to import food. and so this is not farmer nonfarm domestic politics, it's going to face the agriculture community itself. and how are they going to protect the markets if we don't have a system which allows us to abide by our commitment. >> okay, it's like do as i say and not as i do, so to speak. well, i think it's a very important way the race. one nice thing is that this last farm bill moves us into a direction which is less dependent on what i call surplus raised agriculture programs. and it's more based on risk management systems. so if we get used to that, that's going to be helpful in making sure that the farmers know that trade is something
that is critical to their lives and what's good for the goose is good for the gander. when i was secretary, i made a decision to let in can avocados in the united states. and then one day, i discovered the impact of farm politics more directly. one day my wife wakes up and she's nervous and she says, did you see this? and she says, it's a picture of a mexican avocado grower among a call california avocado grower and i'm pointing a gun at his head. and so traders -- i began to realize that it's an extremely complicated political issue when it comes to agriculture. so we've seen this in brazilian
cotton issues, there's a whole litany of it. but i work for a president who really loves trade. this was high priority to him. and it made a difference in terms of this. there are other presidents who have maybe done it. and i remember when i was in congress, i wasn't yet in that cabinet when nafta came up. and he called me and said, this is important, the united states of america from it's one of the most important things we've ever done, i'm not sure that he was hyping it a bit, to be honest with you, but he cared about it very much. one of the problems with trade is that it becomes too technical, if it's explained in too much lawyerly talked, the commodity groups can get a hold of it and the public is just kind of, they have a mixed reaction to these things anyway. so local government, especially in the white house and the u.s.
trade representative's office, they have to look at these issues like they are a very hyper or before the united states and if they don't, it is really hard to sell. >> another hand back here. julie in the second row there. >> julie howard, i'm an independent consultant. thank you so much. thank you for all you have done over the past four years and especially what you have done. i have a question and then a more serious question. the first one is sort of getting beyond the ideological. do you think that we made a mistake by axing out your marks? because your marks and the horse trading that goes on, i think if we look back provided a trading
currency that was more important than we realize. >> homages answer that, yes. so i think that your marks need to be transparent. we are not linking and mounting. the large wealth museum became a big issue. it really costs nothing, but it was an issue. i think it your marks need to be transparent. but it's almost impossible for legislative process to work without people feeling that they have some investment in the system. during my years in congress and i was able to get a few things in the bill, they are usually not giant things, i voted for the bill. i mean, i was supported and that is just the way that all institutions work and families work. by what why would we think that congress doesn't work that way? >> we look forward to that recommendation two maybe, we will see.
[laughter] >> the more serious question, i think that we have a tremendous opportunity with this new research foundation. and i'm really struck by the private sector stepping up in a number of ways, particularly on surveying sustainability issues and trying to think of this foundation might serve a more public platform not just for talking about climate change and those stories of the biotechnology, is important as they are, talking about what are the key issues that are facing a everyday, the droughts come and the increase and sort of framing research priorities in terms of those immediate problems that people are seeing. and our ability to grapple with them over the next five to 10 or 25 years. so i'm wondering about the priority setting process. when the procedure the
foundation. >> are small, secretary vilsack has taken leadership on this. we are going to meet for the first time next week and we have not yet met as a total group and we have do map out our strategy. if you look at the legislative history, it's not real specific on us. but it requires a match and we can't spend money without a match. so i think the implication is that we should deal with the gaps and the knowledge that we don't know. and i'm sensitive to your point because i have always taught about the asteroids, and the things that can destroy us in some way. so i would be prone to many long-term things. but i think that we can partner with the private sector and with the university community.
the fact that we have to match it means that we need their help as well and i hope that that can come and i appreciate your comments. >> over to the other side. >> student here. my question regards the intersection between actor auteur policies and business policies. there's a lot of criticism that the agriculture industry is moving towards higher consolidation and mega-agriculture corporations and the influence that they play, not just on how food is made but things like international trade policy and sort of the broader arab culture trend. my question is what the uc with producers in the checks and balances the government has or in some cases has not placed upon those corporations to counter that.
>> that is a good question. overall, first of all, we've had a trend towards consolidation with almost every industry in the last 50 years in this country. banking, airlines, they fly everywhere in this country, so it's kind of generically true. in hindsight our government probably could've been more forceful and aggressive looking at competitions, perhaps, a more cosmic way and i think they've done it more quickly and prove a lot of these mergers. but there are some positive trends happening in agriculture as well. the amount of locally grown agricultural entities, growing expeditiously and organic agriculture is growing fast. and if you look at all the
supermarkets now, the major food companies, they are developing organic product lines but not just them, but happening around the country. wal-mart is sourcing locally, although perhaps they are not the best example to talk about because they filled a 20% of the food in the united states, but they are sourcing locally and there is a great demand for american people to know where their food comes from. and that creates a counter demand to large-scale agriculture. but i don't think that we're going to go back to mom-and-pop agriculture. i think the global economy and processing, it takes this to feed people. the public demand to eat, there
is a diet that they won't he and not be a supply driven atmosphere. there is a lot more interest in than what they have ever eaten before and people are not as accepting. so i think that that will produce a bit of an anecdote to the concern that you raised. but notwithstanding that i would not look to a phenomenally different structure of agriculture in the future. and i think that there is a trend on consumer demand that never existed before. if you remember the movie field of dreams, i don't think anymore if we grow it they will buy it, i think that that has changed and people are demanding that they have some input into that process. and that is related. >> another question right here. a lady in the third row.
>> hello, i'm from denmark. talk about a new global order to see a new idea for agriculture? i'm thinking of africa, china, the importance of food security and international relations? >> that is a tough question. there are a couple of trends that are happening here and obviously brazil has become one of the most dominant agriculture players in the world, in large part because our research establishment provided them and the demand of china and india is dramatic and it's changing not only production but climate issues and the other changes include diet.
we are now beginning to realize the what you eat has a lot of impact on how long you will live. and that is new. i don't think in all my years of the house or culture committee we ever held at something on how healthy you are an what you eat. so this is a new trend in this process. and i suspect that the global order is going to change. and i think the united states will be a leading force given our productive capability that not a lot of other people have. the rules are going to be set by huge buyers of food, new producers of food, environment issues, and diet. those are the four things that i would say. >> another question right here.
>> thank you very much, secretary, for a very interesting chat this morning. i'm a counselor for agriculture and i mention it is a bit of a question, i suppose. [inaudible] >> it seems to an outside observer that there is a somewhat schizophrenic nature as to why they look at this policy. we are talking about the push to buy local. and yet we also had a huge push from the administration to increase exports as well. wanting us to buy this and the rest of the world. and looking at that in the way that the policy is at this interest for other countries to understand and i'm interested in any thoughts you have in that
area. >> i don't think that it should be too difficult for you. i understand. we will do as i say and not as i do, every country wants it both ways, they want to protect their producers, produces much, not necessarily have to buy as much unless we desperately need a we have an open markets wherever they exist. overall, the u.s. markets have been open and that doesn't mean that there aren't some restrictions in some areas but overall the markets have been by and large. australia, new zealand, you'll have to change your farm programs or other significantly over the last 20 or 30 years and become much more open in terms of your economy and everything else. the administration has been doing its best to open exports wisely so. i told tom vilsack that he has presided over the largest increase in exports in the history of the united states. part of that is because i think
they have done a very good job working with the private sector. and so these tensions are always going to exist. and i just think that they have to be worked out as sensibly as possible. we have to understand that the markets have to be open as well in order for us to continue the pressure to break down the barriers. most of them are outside the united states and quite frankly the barriers are much greater than they are for people to try to get into the markets overall. >> another question. >> let me exercise this. agriculture figured, motley in the united states and up until the mid-1950s, the minute it went into steep decline and nothing declined more
proportionately than agriculture research within that foreign aid to agriculture agenda. members of the house have returns, how do we get research with new technologies and how we get the kind of research commitment that it's going to take, and how do we get to feed the people of today? >> that the great question. somehow we have to link the research to benefit humankind. we did that in the 1950s including the developing world that were never done before. i think there have been a feeling that the research agenda, over the last 20 or 30 years, hasn't been as innovative and supple and the private sector has been able to produce
crops and certain things that i think people found very beneficial. but ultimately you're going to drive people with issues that affect the data. and so they say if you have cancer or heart disease, for alzheimer's, you can pre-much understand why the nih gets more research because it impacts people's lives so directly. so i think that we have to do a better job in relating the benefits, both to agriculture and also to the consuming public. and it's tough to do. but at least there is a growing recognition led by you and others that this trend does need to change and we will probably never get this is the national science foundation, but we need to be on the upside and so the story needs to be told a lot better than it has been told,
shakespeare said play is the thing and it's true in agriculture research or anything ousts. >> is there another question? >> just come over here. in the middle, third row up. >> hello, i have a question about the research priorities, both fronts quantity and quality. you want more research and better prioritization, which i think is important. any thoughts on where that could be, almost hypothetical if you had additional funding, which i guess maybe two or three of the most promising areas where if we had the money or focus we can put more toward a greater yield. >> again, we need to analyze where are the gaps in the research, folks like bob and others can probably let us know better than we have.
and i would like to do in in-depth study to determine how much of that is necessary. and a couple of things, water related resources, utilization of yield increases, how we deal with that. and both plans and animals in this changing world that we have here. but i also think we need ecological research such as how do you develop this faster and this isn't just the agriculture world but it is the world of high-tech and silken belly as well. we need to think much more broadly than just looking at the kind of traditional agriculture research. the final thing is diet.
you know it's a very good question. i know there is plenty of democratic dysfunction when i was there as well but i would tell you one point in this world answer the question more indirectly than you would like. if the american people do not believe that their government is doing their job competently and ably and functionally they will lose confidence in it and they won't support it anymore. so all of the stuff we have seen about the obamacare rollout or the va hospital thing or katrina or this or that. that makes people think the system doesn't work. why should they supported at all and i think it's a big problem. there is a guy at usda that i have become close with matt mckenna that works for secretary vilsack they came in from the private sector to help work on some of the problems. i think we need more like him
better government that can help. i think it's a great tribute to the secretary that he brought someone like that in here but i mean if your job as an employee is if you see this dysfunction is defined away to root it out and i know it's easier said than done. when i was at usda i used to walk around the hallways and walk into offices and say how are you doing? i think i would intimidate them or they thought it was crazy. why would you do that kind of thing but ultimately leadership has to extract where those things are happening that you can deal with. i still think i must tell you my experience at usda was pretty -- pretty positive in terms of by and large the employees there who serve the customers in the public pretty well. a lot of these demands were placed by congress and forced their hand into doing things in certain ways better with a member of the house or senate had that on his mind but i don't
mean what you are thinking. i worry that our government being able to stand for value and if it doesn't it really turns people off. that's bad news for political dysfunction. >> is there one last question? before we thank the secretary let me announce the next two events in the series. tomorrow at 12:30 across the street room 736 professor professor emeritus jerry nelson of the university of illinois who was the author of the recent chicago council on global affairs climate change on agriculture report is going to be talking about public secretary of agriculture research priorities for sustainable development in the world of climate change and on december 10 back by popular demand is going to be speaking at 10:30. many of you remember it was the
added counselor in washington and the european union and for the last decade or so has been the chief policy analyst to the office of the commissioner of agriculture european commission. so we are looking forward to these next two events in the series and we are already working on the schedule for the spring semester from the beginning of february until may. thanks to all of you for coming today and join me in thanking secretary glickman. [applause] [inaudible conversations] and kansas senator ben roberts is running for re-election against independent greg orman. we spoke to her reporter about that race.
>> back to campaign 2014, eight days until the election. let's take a look at the kansas senate race. we are joined by steve kraske who is the political correspondent for the "kansas city star." steve kraske thanks for joining us this morning looking at the race between incumbent pat roberts and the independent greg orman. where do things stand eight days out? >> willis still obviously a very close race out here built. the latest polls we are looking at here suggests that orman might have the lead-up a point or two but obviously that is within the margin of error in these polls out here. but it very very tight race here. there's no question about it. >> last week that pat roberts campaign bringing in the big guns, bringing in that romney. who else has come in to campaign for the senator?
>> at this point half of the u.s. senate has been out here to campaign for pat roberts. he sent john mccain here, rand paul, ted cruz. one senator after another, tom coburn from oklahoma has been here for him today as you just mentioned will be here in the kansas city area suburb just on the kansas side. i think it will drop pretty good crowd. is still a big name in american politics and that's why senator roberts is bringing him out here. it will be fun to see what happens. >> what has to get out the vote effort than for the roberts campaign and the orman campaign. who does he rely on? the democratic party is not therefore necessarily to do the get out the vote campaign. >> that's one of the big questions that surrounds this campaign as we head towards election day, who does greg
orman count on to get the vote out? do you doesn't have very much of the get out to vote record in the traditional sense that we judge these things in american politics. as you point he's an independe independent. the democrats are looking to help him on that front. they don't want to be caught helping greg orman and further ties orman to the democratic party. that's been one of the main arguments that the campaign from the roberts side which is that gorman is a liberal democrat. he was a democrat hiding behind the cloak of being an independent candidate so they really want to avoid that kind of association. orman from what we can tell anyway is pretty much on his own when it comes to getting the vote out and you wonder how that will affect him. roberts will have the advantage of having a long-established republican machine behind him very well-known for his get out
the vote apparatus that helped sam brownback so much four years ago. it should help them again this time around. roberts will be able to bank on that kind of support. orman doesn't have that kind of machine behind him and you wonder how that's going to affect the final vote on election day. >> leslie and i mean this in the most serious way we normally have an election that we have our world series coming back to kansas city. is there any interference? is that a distraction in terms of things like getting airtime for tv spots, political ads and things like that? >> if you watch the world series out here anyway you are seeing lots of ads for orman and lots of ads for roberts. don't think there has been an impact there at all. we have noticed though some research that has begun that suggest that if you have a successful home team in any sport that tends to favor incumbents going forward to election day.
how big of a factor that is i doubt that there's research out there that suggests there is that kind of tie going into election day. >> we will find out this week on i'm one of those pieces of it anyway. steve kraske political correspondent of the "kansas city star" on twitter adds steve kraske to follow all of the action there in the senate race in kansas. thanks for joining us this morning. >> thanks for having me bill. >> up next on c-span2 current and former white house reporters talk about their experiences covering presidents. then we'll get an update on the ebola virus outbreak.
next storm or an current white house correspondents share their experiences covering presidents from jimmy carter to president obama. we will hear from andrea mitchell from nbc news terence hunt the "associated press" and susan page of "usa today." the white house correspondents association hosted this event. >> our panelists are all here so
i think we will go ahead and begin. i want to start a little bit early but that's the way we roll on the board. we have a lot to do and i want to make sure we get a full discussion and i feel sure you will leave with a lot more to say that we were plans for another meeting so stay tuned to that. i appreciate everyone coming out of saturday's vigil in there so many good football games you could be watching. i'm just saying if you feel like seeing the alabama tennessee game. this event is just as important to us as the big shindig we throw every spring at the whd dinner at and that means a lot to you too. you have shown that by turning out on a weekend day and we appreciate that. the whci is devoted to pick things that we talk about all
the time. we talk about access and pushing to increase the access we get at the white house to people and information. that is our primary goal. we also tried to help each other the better individuals at the white house on this epic ever. our event today is devoted to those two things and we want to start with the support for you as a journalist by talking with people who do this job well and have done this job well in the past. we will talk about some of their experience covering the white house and how you get good stories and how you get outside of the box. to help us with god on our first panel we have some veterans of the white house beat. i'm sure you recognize all of them. they continue to practice journalism with excellence in this town and towns north of
here. i will introduce them for you. this is susan page that bureau chief of the washington bureau chief of "usa today." she covers the white house beginning in the reagan years for newsday and next to her as terry hunt of the deputy bureau chief of the "associated press" here in washington. he goes all the way back to reagan, right? i don't want to rob you of credit for any of the administration's. andrea mitchell you will know us a longtime correspondent for nbc. she covers the white house and she now has her own show which i know all of you watch and brooks kraft is a distinguished photographer. he was on the beat for 10 years for "time" magazine but also has shot photographs for all of your favorite magazines. we are really excited to have all four of you folks here.
>> that's my new career. >> i will leave that alone. [laughter] >> i haven't even started yet. >> i had the chance to talk to these panels in advance today to talk a little bit about some of their favorite stories and things they wanted to discuss. everyone talked about covering to be meaningful and how to break out of the past and how did not get boxed in day-to-day at the white house. i want to give them a chance to talk about that a little bit and we will start with susan. you and i talked about what a challenge it was for you to do the story but not 50 people were doing every day and that was something you tried to do on a regular basis. >> thank you christy and i'm honored to be here and a panel of such great people. there are so many people in the audience with equal and better
experience so thank you for being here. when christy asked me about memorable stories the first thinking that came to mind are the memorable events to cover at the white house to the good of the soviet union with president reagan or saudi arabia with the elder president bush before the first gulf war. those are things you will never forget that they're not necessarily the most memorable stories because you are doing the same story that everybody else on the beat is doing. the thing that struck me in the years i covered the white house was the most satisfying stories that i did that were distincti distinctive. christi asked me to think about a story and i will mention one. if the clinton white house and the former president jimmy carter and when i went back to my office at "usa today" my editor said why wasn't carter there? i said everybody knows they don't get along and he said i
didn't know that. which meant possibly some of our our readers want aware of that fact either. i started looking into the fact that the history of their relationship and to my surprise president carter agreed that i could interview him about it. i interviewed him about it and because president carter agreed to the interview president clinton agreed to be interviewed about it on the phone. so i did a story about how the only two living democrats that have been elected southern democrats have this history fraught with tension and how it meant that president clinton didn't turn to president carter for a device or to do things for him that you might've expected. that's a story i remember because it was different from what everybody else was doing. when i think back i remember memorable events and historical experiences but also trying to get a story that was different from everybody else.
>> the interesting thing about that as you have a story idea and you talk to the president about your story. [laughter] when does that start happening? seriously wounded was the last time you were called doing something like that? >> well i've interviewed president obama and i've interviewed the last eight presidents but i do think president clinton was much more likely to engage on an individual story than the president who followed him and that's especially true with president obama. president obama is the most difficult to get ahold of. i interviewed him before the inauguration and before the democratic convention in 2012 but with president clinton he was the guy, i will tell you so "usa today" executive had this
great idea that father's day was coming and every section of the paper should have a cover story related to father's day. i'm not defending it. [laughter] i was assigned to do a story about bill clinton as a father. this was during his impeachment during the monica lewinsky scandal. believe it or not i did the story with the understanding that i would ask about nothing except his father had. he was explicit that i could not ask another question. at the end of the interview i said i promised i would not ask about anything but fatherhood so i'm not going to but if there's anything else you want to talk about i'm here to listen. but there was nothing else he wanted to talk about. [laughter] >> yeah terry you were with the wire at the time. if you have that kind of access to the president and did you get the president on the phone to do regular interviews at your
initiative? >> no we didn't. i had a few experiences with five -- vice president bush when he was with reagan. i would get him on the phone but never with the regularity and reagan was very an accessible and that type of way. he never did as far as i know, there were other people who were here during that time is susan mentioned and susan mentioned that maybe they had a better experience than i did but reagan was tough, impossible. bush was better and i haven't tried clinton or w. w has become an accessible. i know he has met with some reporters since he left. >> you did have a chance in the reagan administration.
you mentioned if he was walking to the helicopter or did a photo spread in the oval he couldn't resist answering your questions. >> sam donaldson had questions for him and his staff went to great lengths. they would tell him before he walked out the door don't answer any questions. don't say anything and still are sam would say something so provocative. like gadhafi says you are a fool and he couldn't resist that. he would be like oh yeah so is he. [laughter] he would try to meet the insult with something of his own. but that was every friday. that was a regular friday feature of the white house reagan era. every friday he would go to camp david and leave at 1:00 or 2:00 in the afternoon and fly away. we would see him and try to provoke him into answering questions. reagan said i don't have the
statistics but i have the impression that reagan was more available to the press and the oval office than his successors have been. when foreign dignitaries were there there was always an opportunity to ask a question. whether or not he answered it remained to be seen but he was there. there was the opportunity and that's one of the important things and not something that we miss now that there is not that. visiting with dignitaries and i remember reagan being very antiabortion. he had antiabortion groups and a lot. different constituent groups would come to the oval office and they would be a photo op and you could ask him questions. i think as the years have gone by the opportunity has closed or
is closing, the frequency of it is not as much as he used to be. >> it seems from conversations with many in the audience that there are fewer uncontrolled moments. >> i think that's it. the friday thing was a fixture. the photo ops in the oval office were regular and my impression is that certainly with reagan there were not as many news conferences. news conferences were a different kettle of fish at those times. there were big primetime news conferences with fewer ships of 60 million people at 8:00 at night. it was maybe three or four times a year. now it's more frequently than that. george herbert walker bush had so many press conferences we
used to not drive them but it was like a oh my god is the third press conference. he would drop into the briefing room and he was just here two days ago. [laughter] have you got a question? but that has diminished too. >> on the specifics we might have to go to mark later but i won't call him out right now. you probably have them on the top of your head. >> always. >> entry you mentioned that used to go to church with president carter. >> it was not a matter of faith that being his junior correspondent. at the weekend duty and i was backing up my senior correspondent john palmer and judy woodruff and so part of it was to go to church as a pool reporter and take his sunday school -- because he delivered the lessons.
actually it was great for a young junior correspondent to have experience. my perspective has been refreshed just this week because john palmer had left a memoir which was just published and possibly can get it on line. they just had an event at nbc a gathering in new york this thursday and i'm looking. the first question one of thing he writes is he came from being the senior foreign correspondent for nbc news covering so.and arafat and beirut and traveling the world in africa and the, and all over the world and doing all these things and when bill small
came to nbc he had asked to become a domestic correspondent and bill said come to washington tomorrow and be our white house correspondent. one of the things he writes as i learned my way around the carter white house i found out if you want it to could ask the president if he didn't abuse the privilege and it wasn't a formal interview if you have something you are working on. i was working on environmental pay someone to ask president carter some questions. that gives you an idea for leon but then the greatest, his greatest feat as white house correspondent and made him when the merriment awards at the correspondent dinner. at 10:00 that night he got a call.
he thought it was a prankster and thought there was something going on at the white house. it was just enough that john said i will check it out. he grabbed his ifp branch ran to the white house and immediately after westgate saw they there were all these cabinet level limo's in the driveway and went in and started asking what was going on. went to jody's office and saw there was not only everyone from the lower press office in upper press office but press office to stack of plates with dried lasagna indicating they were in there for hours. he started asking around and initially one in the lower press conference said it was from bogotá. he immediately figured out that was not true. the deputy secretaries that i have nothing for you on it. that was enough to avert the network because it was 1979.
this would mean interrupting prime-time programming and he knew his informal cutoff was 11:30 which would impact a the johnny carson show the tonight show. he got the camera crews down and it was in the middle of the hostage crisis. the iran hostage crisis and eventually he bluffed his way with jody and he describes it as a classic for any journalist saying he knew it had to be an international crisis given it was there, something was going on and he was going to go on the air if they didn't tell them what was going on. and how eventually he promised a 15 minute jump on the wire. [laughter] if he would not go on the air right away. there was no way that john palmer worked on the air and say there are a lot of cars at the white house. powell was so upset in any case
and eventually powell called him in and handed him a sheet of paper and said you have two minutes to ask three questions and that's all you get. and he handed them the statement that in the desert there had been a rescue mission that had failed. helicopters had collided in eight americans were dead and powell's eyes were tearing up. it was right before the election bids and he knew that this was the end of the presidency. then he said i'm going to call the wires now and you can go with it and of course john said that was not the deal and went onto the lawn and we broke the story. i can't even think of another scooped out there in recent years with one correspondent. that said everybody would go into reagan's office and that there was expanded pool. they slimmed it down to three
networks. there was no cable so each network would have a designated person. it was a larger expanded pool but there were times when all of us would go in and be able to ask questions of reagan. initially it good news conferences when the afternoon before there was primetime. they were late afternoon but then i discovered that if the president made mistakes, which happened, regularly, there was no time to fix that before the 6:30 new casts of a motion to primetime even though the audience was essentially larger. the idea was they could work it out on the morning shows and by the next evening newscast they have the fix. i had one experience during the iran contra where i asked a question and it was classic reagan.
i started to get up to ask a question. i was not the lead correspondent by any means. chris wallace was so i had to be aggressively raising my hand. he started to call on me and steve roberts from "the new york times" stood up and he was standing right in front of me. this is the classic ronald reagan. i knew helen was going to say thank you mr. president -- he did he said no wait a second i promised andrea. he remembered he had called on me and steve had taken my questions. [laughter] >> he was pointing in that direction. he called on me and i asked a the question about the second country about basically israel having helped with the missiles. this was all unraveling that the missiles were provided to iran. this was oliver north in using the money that they made from that deal.
i asked the question that we have had been briefed on and background of earlier in the day by the chief of staff. the president didn't have the answer rights and he denied it. it became a big to do and everyone was going crazy with the fact that the president denied there was a second country involved. at around 10 minutes until mine. the news conference started a 35:00 and attend to mind the press open and issued a written statement with the president had aired and did not mean to say however they put it whatever boys to put it in and i remembered grabbing a piece of paper and tearing up to the lawn to try to get there before prime-time coverage. we would go the full half-hour. the news conference would end
and we would fill prime-time on the network with brokaw and going around and getting correspondence from "the hill." it was such a big deal so we got it on before we went off the air at nine and i got back to the booth feeling so proud of myself that i run out there and gotten there in time. the phone rang. she used language that i had never heard before and he said he was going to get me fired and how dare i ask a question of the president of the united states. i remembered the feeling in the pit of your stomach where you're absolutely terrified. some of us have had it in the war zones but this was the chief of staff who was a very intimidating man. all i remember is thinking that my career was over. fortunately for me nancy reagan had him fired. [laughter]
[applause] one thing that is emerging as all of you are telling the stories is the ask is the axis that you've had had to the president himself and also to staff members, andrea told me earlier that she used to stand at the south was gated whatsoever must demand. they would roll them in windows and hand their i.t. out and she would talk to them and ask them questions which obviously is not something that the secret service would let happen today. >> it was during the awacs vote and the president wasn't biting jim baker and the strategy group was having people and one by one our calling groups. and bill of course so the deal was who's coming in and which democrats is he trying to update? by assignment was to stand out there with a walkie-talkie and
let john and judy know from the southwest gate who is coming in for the evening sessions in the oval room upstairs with the president rex he said the lobbying was intense. it could have been gramm-rudman or anything else. that's the way the lobby went and you had mobility. you could move around the ground. >> i want to circle around that and ask you to talk about your knowledge of the president and whether that made a significant difference in your reporting. on that point i want to go to brooks and ask about the visual element of this. did you have meaningful access to the president go meat covered and can you think of some examples of how that happened?
>> how would you define meaningful access? >> i remember that series of photos. >> still photography art opportunities fall into three buckets, the three general press conferences, pool events and exclusive behind-the-scenes. actually access matters in all three. it's just defined differently. for us access if everything because if we don't have close physical proximity to the president or to somebody senior we are doing a story on we literally can't do our job and we try to come up with ways to fake it. shooting monitors, playing to the corner of the room waiting with the empty mike. that doesn't work very well so access is really everything.
it's increasingly hard especially for still photographers to get exclusive access and that is a whole new meaning in this administration which we can get to later with current technology that allows the obama administration to develop their own network in their own exclusive access to send out to everybody. but getting back to your question with bush i remember actually i think it was probably mark miller staff that i heard about three or four months into the bush administration that he had gone to the ranch. he had spent 100 days out of 200 or something on the ranch and at that point nobody had seen what he did on the ranch or would it look like. so i pitched to the press
secretary behind-the-scenes look at the ranch that he spending that much time there we need to see what he's doing. this was before they had done in a statement and it took four or five months of back-and-forth and then one thursday afternoon i got this phonecalls saying what are you doing this weekend now and it was boom, boom, boom. i think in that situation making those sorts of things work is very difficult and you need to trust. it's sort of a delicate dance because they need to know that they are not going to get totally burned and i'm not going to put a picture of him picking his nose or something harmful out there.
i'm not going to do a puff pie piece. it is a delicate back-and-forth but i ended up spending the better part of the day photographing him clearing brush and a secure trailer where he was having videoconferencing back in washington with the first lady. that kind of opportunity is hard to do and most still photographers would say that. >> what do you think is lost by back? i'm not assuming the answer is everything. i just wonder when we talk about having personal access to the president interaction with the staff does that produce better reporting? do you think they're reporting the administration's you covered is superior to the reporting we do now and didn't make a difference in the way that has to do with access? >> i mean that's a big question.
i think that having independent access to the president certainly in interviews access is really important and that is the most frequent independent access that the press gives to the president. i think it's also important for people to see what kind of person then what kind of leader the president is. the difference between the still photography and tv is i tried to come in with two cameras one in the room and things to a certain extent can unfold the way they would if i wasn't there. that's trickier with television because there is more production value. i think without sound, without knowing that allows us to see
things that maybe we wouldn't be out of the sea otherwise. but what is happening now is that whole environment has been taken over by the white house. the white house photographer and basically the daily photos dream that goes out on flickr are the pictures that we see that are very rare. >> i'm just remembering terry you told me realize iran-contra there might be something to the story because you read the president's body language one day. >> right. that was 1986 and it was election day and he was getting onto a plane to fly back to washington and some reporter, as reagan was going up the stairs said, shouted out to him and said there is a lebanese magazine that says bud mcfarlane
who is his national security adviser went to iran with a cake in the shape of a key and a bible to foster better relatio relations. so the whole thing was just ridiculously improbable and reagan paused and said no comment. and then continued up the stairs. reagan is pretty skilled at this. there was a bunch of things he could have done. he could have ignored the question. he could've said that's ridiculous or anything but he said no comment. i remember the people who were there. we almost fell down. we were like why did he do that? why didn't he say something. >> he was dispiriting but by then he had told what happened. >> here clearly known it happened so he got on a plane to
fly back to washington that day. nobody came back on the plane to explain why he made that remark. that opened up this chapter that andrew would do to this chapter of selling arms to iran in hopes of getting hostages out of lebanon and then giving money to the contras in nicaragua. it was a member legally complicated story that played out in a lethargic cover because reagan's own version and interpretation of what happened changed and he never accepted the fact that he was trading arms for hostages. he still claimed up until his death that he wasn't doing that although everybody found that he was. there was all this stuff so it was a very difficult story to tell. it was just seeing him that day, the fact that he faltered and
didn't give the movie star kind of quality confidence responds but instead this no comment. >> access to the present is so important and it's a privilege to have access. we all feel that way but the thing that causes more concern for me with the current trend is the lack of access to senior aides and cabinet secretaries and control of the press office over every contact you have with officials in the administration. i think it makes it incredibly difficult to do meaningful reporting. the most meaningful reporting will be the interviewing you do with the people advising him. that's what i look at now and i think how can we tell americans that we are giving them a 260-degree look at what's going on inside the white house when the only access we have is through people and the press office?
they are not the policymakers and i remember in the reagan and clinton white house it was incredibly messy. you could reach staffers and with reagan's team they were at war with each other. there were ways to find out what was going on behind the scenes and not just what they wanted to feed you. that was true of clinton and i would say to people who are running for the white house who would end up being able to do more. the neatly controlled white house or the messy chaotic one. i would argue the ability of reporters to talk to people who are not in the press office end up serving the president well. >> just to put a fire in her point on that why is it messy or better? >> if you wait until you have your policy shaped in your
six-point fact sheet ready to go you have missed the whole policy creation part which is important that you have missed the alternative points of the present hearings and when when you have access to senior aides often they are trying to destroy a policy by telling about. maybe it out to be debated before the present gets out there. >> knowing the president and being out there and frankly having correspondence be out there day and night really has a value. on the hostage crisis, having watched him in the rose garden several events and then where he was talking about the hostages first in beirut before we even dealt with larger hostage crisis that but the original hostage crisis in beirut you knew how
upset he was about this. you could see it so that led you to call and find out if he opened his intel briefings every day with what you know about the hostage crisis in new that he was tasking them to do something about it. they have been at the nsc were taking matters marching orders. we understood later on it helped us to know how important that issue was for him. he viewed it as a personal mission to get those people out. it was the first thing in the most important thing to him. similarly not having the access to that, the control by the communications people over what it cap and secretary can say not only on camera and going out on sunday shows where they had their own discretion but who can be surrogates for president?
i think the white house most importantly is not served well by not having more senior people that they can send out whether it's on health care or gaza or now on ebola. tony fauci is going to do the shows on sunday because he's the only one they feel that can deliver the message. and one more thing with all due respect to our photographer friends i was outraged as a news correspondent that it was only the stills. there used to be a time if there was no editorial written presents presence they wouldn't use the picture. they simply would not. >> i'm glad you raised that point because that brings me to the second thing i want to discuss. i apologize to those of you that i've heard me talk about this for hours on end already better
access contact us directly related to what andrea just said. a little bit of history. last december a photographer led the press corps and the washington media more broadly in pushing for greater access to the white house particularly photo access. the white house has response to that to some degree and they have allowed, that is where you see more stills on the opportunities and they have also open more of them than we have currently gotten. as soon as that happened white house correspondent board realized that's a very small thing for us to be asking for in the wake of that. we got the white house's attention last december. we wanted to follow up with something bigger and something that touches all of us and ken strickland's says always lifts oliver puts together.
for months we have been working on this. almost everybody has been part of it. we talked about the gains we have made in the practices we have in place that we value and we have written them down because we want to make sure they are preserved and handed down to the next administration and the presidential campaign will adopt it as well. we have also added people started brainstorming things we can add to the list that will make things better more broadly for all of us likes up of the ideas that have been suggested by the president taking questions from the press corps at least once if not more often. the press corps sees the president network in the oval office in the roosevelt room wherever he's doing business. photo sprays her an to ask spontaneous questions in unscripted settings. those are the sorts of things we been pulling together to put in this document. so while we have got these veterans sitting here at this
table and while you are thinking about this as well i want you to think about yourself because the document is still in the works. we plan to work on it the rest of the phone about to hear from you. which practices do you think are most important? which of those we have fought for and gotten those that existed in the past which we loved what mattered the most in giving an independent vigorous press access at the white house? >> some of the things we have talked about here is how much staging areas. so much is staged and to the exclusion of any independent reporting our independent photography or video journalism. it's things that are being excluded. they have taken over the production and delivery of a lot of content and people's impressions of the white house based on what they see from the white house point of view.
that is not, that puts us to the side. i think the white house is found an important signal with all of their leak investigations. this administration has been very aggressive in their leak investigations and i think that has resulted in a chilling of sources for investigative reporters and others. it's an attitude that the administration has conveyed and projected to its own officials, people in the white house and the pentagon and the state department and beyond and it has a bad impact on what we are trying to do. i don't know how you say try to send a signal that this administration is more receptive and has believed in the first amendment and thinks this is a good thing to do independent reporting about the press to
have more access and more insight in the way policies are developed as the way you were talking about and let people peel back the cover a little bit to see what's going on. >> works you have some thoughts. >> i think it always helps to think about things from their perspective. my guess is when we start talking about things we want to see the mass and instantly they are saying this is 2014 and one little photo or one little comment like some of the things we are talking about in the past will get instantly blown up. it goes out on twitter. it's all over the place of the 24-hour news cycle so i think that's their big fear and so we
have to keep that in mind when we are crafting it. also you can't underestimate the fact that they believe they can go directly to the public. they don't need the media to communicate to the public anymore whether we are talking about still images or video. i'm not saying i agree with this but there are a lot of people at the white house. why should we have to filter through the media when we can put it out whether it's a photo, and video press release or comment and it goes instantly all over the internet. >> i'm not arguing. >> i'm not saying you are but i'm saying to them. is this working for you and enabling you to succeed in the administration then i would argue one of the things and you
talk about their fear that there would be a gotcha moment that would explode, my fear is that this administration is more restrictive and more challenging a more dangerous to the press than any administration in american history in terms of legal investigation and so on and access to the white house. i am worried that whatever happens with this administration that's the new floor for the next administration will never regain access or ability to do reporting or to do our job. and we fought constantly fight the battle. that is why attacking these issues in a serious way. i am worried that we have a role in our democracy and we can't do it if the president and his administration don't recognize it. >> i think where we are able to make some ground in december was when we said hey psident obama
at the beginning of your your frustration he said this would be the most transparent administration. this is not transparent. it's not transparent for you guys to provide content. i have heard from multiple different people but that argument got under his skin and that led to some changes. so if you can build on that and what you are saying about democracy. >> being combined to have breathing room and i know this is not going to change especially after recent events but there was a time when we would wander through the eob. get your past would get you in the northwest gate and if you would see someone at the council of economic advisers or some other office you would just go up the steps.
you were wandering around the eob. >> walking through the old executive office he saw a reporter and said what he doing there? of course he wanted to interview somebody and he would say where's your escort? two days later they shut down the old executive office building. >> when they are for putting the theater and because he used to be big couches and armchairs in the briefing room. then they put the theater seats in. it was september when we were moved to a temporary press room and i remember we were all worried that they would never let us get back into the main building and we would never see people coming in and out which didn't happen. we would just wander back and
forth to doing standup and then back to the eob to the fourth floor. i remember the dates for that were killed. were all scrambling and in september 1981 i was there because judy just had her baby and going in for judy's maternity leave. i remember john always thinking of the visual and wanting to run around and get a picture. it was a competitive thing to get a picture that no one else had. he looked up from barking something into the phone and he said andrea get a crew quick. get a shot of them lowering the flag over the white house. i grab the crew and we ran down and ran across and got the shot of the flag being lowered in honor and memory of sadat. you had the sense that you could
cover getting a shot of people walking or driving him. i know that's not going to change but a white house pass was your credential. once you are on the ground you could go to many more places. >> it was the end of the carter administration and they have those big couches. it was couches they had torn away from other places. it was the first time i've been there so i sat down and the maid came up to me and said get out of my chair and that's how i met mark beller. [applause] >> if it's not on the record it didn't happen. [laughter] >> i just want to make one final point before we conclude the panel. i wish we had a two-hour panel because i enjoy your storytelling and/or insight.
the white house engaged about the changes in the standards we were drafting. they understand in the wake of last december's public conversation we came in with a very small ask for separate person media. understand that we were not on the same page for what we asked for. you got a little flavor earlier. each of our pdf formats had a conflict with another media format about how we wanted things. we had to work that out and we have to go the white house as a group and stand behind our document as a group. sometimes we advocated for things that don't make an difference in your daily practice of journalism but they do matter to the whole group and ironing out for example the difference between a photojournalist and that cameras on poole's race was just the tip of the iceberg. that's why i want everyone if you are willing to come here on a saturday and now you're
willing to put in more time. she -- please join one of the small groups at the board members will be convening over the next six to eight weeks into down the people that are not in your media group and representatives of different media and go over these ideas and look at the document and lets put together something that we in the group can stand behind. with that, let's thank the contributions of the panelists. [applause] >> thank you everybody. will std panel. [inaudible conversations] which is a group of my favorite white house correspondents. that is what you get to do when you moderate a panel. we have margaret who covered
the white house for bloomberg, covered the obama campaign, worked in florida, did a stint in congress. and abc news, the chief white house correspondent since december 2012 and has covered congress, foreign-policy, state department, and politics. peter baker of the new york times who has covered three white houses, the obama white house, bush white house, clinton white house and was moscow bureau chief and recently wrote a book about bush and cheney, which everyone can review -- everyone should read. stephen colocynth is a white house correspondent emeritus who recently left us for cnn but covered the white house for a half before a number of years and also did a number of stents overseas in asia and europe. and so i am delighted to have all of you here.
you're definitely among my favorite white house correspondents. selfishly i decided to start the panel of by one of the things that i am most interested in as a white house correspondent, particularly given all of the access limitations at our previous panel talked about. i would like to know how these guys get their story and, like, where do you get that information from and how does it all come together. i have asked them to each talk about some of the one they stand out story that they have done on the beach and give us a little window and to how they can about it. i will start with margaret, if that is okay. [laughter] >> the story that i want to talk about is probably not the biggest story in this sense of shedding major light on a foreign policy scandal or something like that, but it is an access story, which is why i thought of it. in the spring of 2012, a story about how the white
house had stopped releasing lists of the wine they were pouring and state dinners because the winds had gotten expensive and had become scandalous in the middle of a deficit, but instead of just admitting, they were not admitting. they were denying while doing it. and so honestly the world would have turned without anyone knowing what they were going to power for the u.k. state dinner, but i was so mad it would not tell me that i made my mission and spend three weeks. >> did you just badger them into it? >> all of the above. all of the above. i went to the press office, mrs. obama office. the robo. the blow you off for four days and refer you to the press office. and thus it went. so i started trying to a check clips, calling the indices are places that had been part of the state dinner, going on line blocks, looking for wine
trade publications that might have written about someone who had a wind powered, calling major vendors and specialty vendors. and because i was at bloomberg and had to write ten stories at the same time that's fine. like, i was so mad. i just went nuts on it. and a great story, one of my favorite stories. they continue the practice of not listing the wines up until the last state dinner where very quietly they began. [laughter] and i think, if i remember right to my wind at a certain point during his conversation. he was like a fantastic resources. it i was pretty new to bloomberg, and they had hired an editor, a guy whose name i had known from the "wall street journal" because he and his wife had written a wine column for
many years. so i called him. i'm trying to do this story. they will not release the names. he's like, let's get dot the on the phone. anyway, i ended up talking with his wife, and he became like a mentor to me. it ended up being the other way around. i have all these new friends to our winemakers in california. [laughter] >> ron. >> i cannot beat that, but i do remember $400 a bottle at auction, which is probably about that time they stopped. that is phenomenal. i do not know, you know, if this is the kind of beat. it is rare to blow up in one big story, but incremental developments on big stories that you push for. he immediately won the that i think of is when the boston bombing happened and president obama came down and had bad, you know, come to talk to us in the briefing room at nine or 10:00 after they got some
not. and if we were not getting any information at all from the white house. you know, one of the television correspondent, i have to stand off, and everyone wonders why those guys are always standing. before he comes out i have to give a little steel and lead into the president. and i have nothing to say because i have no idea what he is going to say. the first thing you have to do in a situation like that is go all around the white house because it will be completely useless. the white house press office is shut down. by and large you realize that you will get nothing there. in that case, just a little bit of -- gave my viewers of little bit of information, which was they had initiated the high-value interrogation team. this was set up to be
enhanced interrogation, a combination of fbi, department of defense, intelligence community go up and do the interrogation to figure out if anyone else was a part of this plot. an additional piece of information that there was no way in hell i would have gotten out of the white house. the same way as one of the big stories this year, of course, has been isis. he announced a prime-time address, although that is not always an indication that he will do anything, you know. [laughter] but, again, no information coming out of the white house about what is going on. but, you know, i was able to
get some information that in addition to air strikes he would be announcing groups of devices that would go over, you know, which would be essentially they would have boots and be working on the ground but not the boots on the ground. [laughter] but the way i always have learned on this speed is, you have got to go around. having covered the pentagon, having covered congress, that state department, the intelligence community, each one of those places is a lot easier to get information and the white house. it helped to go back to those places when you want to get something on the white house. >> what about you? >> grace stories and both make great points. i am going to flip your question a little bit and talk about a story i remember screwing up. how about that? i remember in 2005 going down to texas to cover president bush on vacation as some many of the state in crawford.
he decided to go off to arizona to give a birthday cake to john mccain on the tarmac, san diego for some anniversary. of course this is when hurricane katrina happened. he packs up and it goes back earlier. as we all remember, of course, he flies low over nor less to get a look at the devastation. for those of us on the plane it was incredibly moving. a half-hour worth of seeing the devastation on the ground. they flew very low. a very good sense from that altitude of how awful it was , and i got off the plane and restoring on bush taking charge and everything, completely missing the story to which i had been a part of, right? and a lesson there is, we should fight for access and have to get close of, but let's not get in the same bubble he is in and remember that sometimes the story is not the way it looks to him but to the rest of the world and we should try to find a way to keep their
perspective. and what john and margaret just talked about is also true. the best sources are not in the white house. i had a great good fortune of working very briefly to someone people in this room must know. and she just had that place wired, new every janitor and secretary, new things before the white house officials knew them. they would call her to find out. asked her once, how do you do it? what is your trick? and she said, there are three levels of sources. the agencies, congress, and k streets. none of them work in 1500 pennsylvania avenue. that is exactly what he was talking about. >> you have had some good -- >> i agree. insider reporting, sometimes you have to be -- to come at it as an outsider and do that story about how the rest of the world see what the president is doing. one occasion i remember is
the first trip to china in 2009. the president, it was a bit of a disaster. the president did a bit of a town hall meeting in shanghai, which half of china could not see because it was blocked off and the chinese would not let half the people come and. he did not go and see any dissidents. when reagan went to moscow he went and saw dissidents. and then he had this press conference, which was not really a press conference at all. it was him and the others standing there looking around at the ceiling. he went into this massive bit about mutual cooperation which the chinese often talk about in public. the president was staring around, catching people's eye in the front row, very board. the press coverage was absolutely brutal. and i kind of did not do that story because i figured
that, you know, we are all flying around in the same plane. everyone is going to write that it was a disaster. i have to come up with something different, especially as a foreign journalist working for mainly foreign clients. so i thought -- i had done a little bit of reporting about what the chinese thought about the president. if you think about the biggest nightmare in china, that there would be some kind of charismatic leader probably from the agricultural heartland who builds a grass-roots movement whose sort of electrifies students and then goes and overtakes the east coast establishment, the political establishment. if you think about it, that is exactly what the president did in the united states. one of the reasons i think the chinese treated him as they did is because they were actually -- they saw him as a threat and were frightened about -- friend is too strong.
concerned that if the people of china saw what the people of the united states were seeing basically this is when hope and change was still a viable concept. [laughter] and they would be inspired. so i wrote the story that way and was carried by rush limbaugh and the other right when blocks for carrying water for the obama administration, but i think -- and there was one other issue. mark landers has written about this. the president is not in the kind of line of posts nixon american presidency see china all in the same way and dealt with china in the same way. the presidency's china, i think, from the kind of experience of east asia. a big country but a small pantry. he put what i was talking about before and that together. you can see how the chinese might have seen the president. i think that story stands
the test of time because it has told you the story of what has happened between the united states and china in this administration, which is -- relations are not particularly good. there is still a lot of mistrust, miscommunication, and china seas most of this. it is not seen that way in asia. i was talking to an asian diplomat yesterday he think it's kind of a threat. the chinese think -- the president can say 100 times that this is not something that is aimed at china, but the chinese don't see it that way. and i think that was evident from that first trip to china. >> and that was something you were able to pick up on because of your experience overseas? >> i guess. you have to kind of -- >> i mean, peter rig mentioned taste treats, agencies, but the foreign
diplomat circle must be -- you have the committees on the hill, but often the foreign diplomatic community, you can, you know, work out when a story is going to rise and come to the four were you can actually report on it and go to our house official and say this is what everyone is saying. is that true. and another good way, all these think tanks around town. they meet with administration officials all the time and often will not give you exactly what the conversations were about. you talk to enough of his people and you can get a pretty good impression. a story recently. and you can get a good kind of idea of what the white house is doing just by hearing the chatter around town. that is the way you have to do it. you can't get -- people just do not phony back. >> news agency. >> i guess. [laughter] >> that actually is true across the board.
i am certain that some people get called back faster, but the frustrations felt are pretty much across the board. i was fascinated when political magazine did a poll of white house correspondents. and i will confess device suggested one of the comments. how many of you have spoken to a non communication person at the white house in the last week, someone who is not paid to talk to you but a policy person. 53 percent said, are you kidding. it is just, i think, telling that we all feel so excluded from the people who actually do the job we are interested in talking about. >> there are different levels, though. margaret, you experienced that. you went to a bloomberg, which has a permanent seat on air force one, second row in the briefing room, and the makes of any secret back room briefings that you used to get into. the stories that you have
done verses the access that you have had. >> one of my favorite stories about that happened in 2006 when barack obama had his book that had just come out. one of the editors wanted me to do a book review, a q&a. there were like, he is running for president and i was like, no. [laughter] >> like peter. >> exactly. so i mike, can i get an interview with senator obama. he is like, i would ever. there will get back to you. one night i went to the senate, the elevator. it was his night to give some speech that no one was going to listen to and then turn the lights off and leave, so he was the last guy in the senate. so i'm stalking him outside. he comes out and i say, hey, i've been trying to reach you. can happen the elevator?
i guess so. i have been calling your office for six or seven days in a row. i'm trying to get an interview with you. looking at me like, what is your name. i work for mccarthy newspapers and we happen to have some really influential newspapers in north carolina and south carolina, basically a handful of states that were big money states or pivotal states and the primary or swing states. so if you want to call me back -- and he literally called me the next day and had my interview with him. that is one of two interviews i have ever had with president obama it is different. and it sometimes feels personal, but i think it is usually not personal. it is completely transactional they needed as. they loved us if there was something happening in florida, north carolina, south carolina, a couple of other places. you know, at bloomberg they
are obviously much more interested in doing business with us on stories that affect wall street, consumers, the financial industry, and i think it is how they look at all of the outlets. after a while you figure out what you can do with access, where they will help you with, and what you just need to write off from the get go . >> it is true -- it is probably the first two rows. we get invited to briefings that others do not. i don't know. >> they are not as frequent, though. >> and they are usually pretty useless. we are not allowed to actually "anybody. i mean, i think we are all still -- we go and learn something, but it is not that useful. of the major beach in this town, there are only two left that you can actually walk. and this gets to how you got to senator obama.
it is congress and the pentagon. >> but what was that like when you came from congress to the white house? >> it was brutal because that is highlighted by reporting on the hill. about the only place i was not allowed to go -- imagine that. the only place i was not allowed to go without permission was these centers -only elevator because i almost got back to they cannot avoid you. you know when the votes are, how they have to go to get to the vote, what doors, subways, hallways, stairways, it to full offices, someone to help you out and triangulate, but you can get these people. they cannot avoid you. at the white house now -- now, i went to the white house for a month before i had the chance to ask the president a question. that is astounding. [laughter] think about that. it. >> it is averages. >> anyway --
>> you coverage -- steven did, too. you covered clinton and bush one would think that if you -- starting monday number one of the obama administration, they are trying to figure out where their lockers are. you know where they are and the code. you seem to know more. other advantages or disadvantages to that experience? >> i think it is important because you see things threepeat. you know, history repeats itself here we are, in the sixth year of his administration, about to head to a midterm with things are not going to go will presumably. you can write the story with more authority, context, perspective. and also, by the way, you know things that they don't. the other day we had is interesting back and forth with mark smith and the press secretary tried to suggest this was the first
time in the administration had ever done this or that and we said, wait a second. that is not the case. they don't have the historical memory, most of them. it helps to have people like mark and bill and marked and the other markets and so forth in the room to help us keep them honest. every administration thinks history started the day that they took office. everyone goes through this painful realization that it did not. >> at what point does that sink in? >> right around year number eight. [laughter] >> what about you? what difference is? >> the bush administration and the clinton administration, much more astute in dealing with foreign leaders especially. they have this same attitude in the obama white house about foreign media as the domestic media. they get straight over your head. the president will do an op-ed instead of talking to
any journalists. when bush would go abroad he would have three prominent journalists from each country into the roosevelt room. i mean, he was good at it. he was charming, and he would allow the wires to go at the same time. you get to take down all of the quotes. and then once it hit the newspaper or the tv station in the country he was going to you could report. so they had two bites at the chariot, the newspaper article and then every other media outlets in that country to wire copy. so it was a much bigger sort of penetration of the media market. i think also that this whole business with the nsa, the president could have easily come down if he had gone and done an interview on german tv. still very popular in europe. they did not engage.
>> something bush would have done? >> you might have been, but bush was very unpopular in europe. it would not help him. the people that work for bush, ben bartlett, other people were so much more acute. i think that they were in this media mindset that they know best. i still do not think there is a better way for a president to talk to the american people then through the ap. well, but he does these interviews with local anchors to come to the white house and get their picture taken. it is all very nice, but they did one station in, you know, i don't know, toledo or denver. and national al lead, you might get tougher questions, but every single -- every newspaper, all the tv stations in america, and i don't understand it. >> isn't part of the reason they do that because when
they do that we write about it. as news organizations, journal poll is that at the white house where they have a local anchor set up in the rose garden. we divide them up and do the interviews. >> these quotes. [inaudible conversations] >> not that well equipped to know what is going not the white house. came in. given nice little set down. came out and reported. you know how they work? the journalists give them questions before hand. he gives the answers. >> it did not work that way. >> would you like to say something? >> sort of a sensitive topic, but on the question of how access varies by ellis coming to me one of the best parts about being regularly in that travel pool and travelling on air force one is president obama does have, as you know, a
tradition of coming back and doing some of the record time, usually for flights, sometimes domestic trips if there is a reason. although we cannot write about what he says, you can see, it is often reflected, we came back for 15 minutes. for me, that is the most agreeable time because when you are covering somebody come made is really nice to have some face time with them and to try to read body language, what is on their mind, whether they can laugh off a question or whether their prickly about it. something that maybe we did not think to ask but he brings out. and whenever i have had the privilege to be in one of these i often wonder why he does not do it more often than not just on the plan. >> and may be on the record. >> on the record would be great, but, you know, even when it is off the record, i think it buys him a tremendous amount of
goodwill and some empathy if not sympathy in understanding how difficult it is to run the country and how complex your decision making is. he is obviously rhetorically more skilled. he can figure out how to deal with this. i have never understood why he is not more comfortable or they are not more comfortable with him doing more of these. i no there have been times when he spoke off the cuff. usually, by the way, on a podium with a microphone and we end up having a beer summit or something. >> got mike. >> yes, the hot mike. it is true that there is less risk, but there is also less reward. and i think that, to my mind , often after one of the long trips were he will come back and do this there will actually be interesting stories that are still in the stories in the days after. i was there. you know where it came from.
and it actually, it can be journalistically sound. and i do not know why he does not do more of it. >> do you want to say something, peter? so that kind of is a nice segue into talking about some of these practices and principles that christi parsons was talking about. i am curious about some of the different things being batted around, for instance how important do you think it is we see the president every day? john prius as you were on the hill, is that something that would be useful to you in your day-to-day coverage? >> absolutely. andrea and i together on trips to places like saudi arabia and china that have a slightly less reputation of press freedom than the united states, but the practice in virtually every trip you and i have gone on together has been that often in these less press open
societies they will try to say, we will let the cameras in, but the producers, reporters, editorial presence. it is usually the american public affairs official who is going to bat saying, no, we're not going to allow this. now suddenly we have this new practice at the white house where cameras go win, including video cameras for this wonderful new trend was no editorial presence. and i know that the bureau chiefs have agreed to do this in limited circumstances, but i think it is a terrible idea, a terrible precedent because it allows them to kind of further and further push away the actual, you know, people that are there for editorial reasons. >> and one thing that i wondered about that is -- and this goes to the idea of seeing the president every day or just seeing the president is that, is for
the editorial, the writers on the panel, to you feel something is lost when editorial is taken out of a situation like that in this sense that it does not acknowledge what you do as a writer, which is also pick up your own color and different pieces of the scene in that that is part of the editorial role as well? >> the person we cover the most is the person we know the least. we have all covered centers and mayors and governors. those people you see so much. you have a sense of who they are. they are guarded, like any other politician. you have a sense of who these people are in the way you have not a clue what this president is liked. i guess the question all the time. >> you feel like you knew what clinton and bush were like? >> i feel lik